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The Essential Ellen Willis$
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Ellen Willis and Nona Willis Aronowitz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816681204

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816681204.001.0001

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Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

(p.59) Janis Joplin
The Essential Ellen Willis

Nona Willis Aronowitz

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explores how the hippie rock stars of the late 1960s merged two versions of that hardy American myth, the free individual, by focusing on Janis Joplin. These hippie rock stars were, or purported to be, apostles of cultural revolution, a considerably more ambitious and romantic vision of freedom that nevertheless had a similar economic foundation. If Janis’s favorite metaphors—singing as fucking (a first principle of rock and roll) and fucking as liberation (a first principle of the cultural revolution)—were equally approved by her male peers, the congruence was only on the surface. Underneath—just barely—lurked a feminist (or prefeminist) paradox. The male-dominated counterculture defined freedom for women almost exclusively in sexual terms. As a result, women endowed the idea of sexual liberation with immense symbolic importance.

Keywords:   hippie rock stars, Janis Joplin, cultural revolution, freedom, rock and roll, counterculture, women, sexual liberation

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